Green Transport and Urban Design Push Cities to Top of New Livability Index

Copenhagen - the World's Most Livable City
Copenhagen was recently rated the world’s most livable city – due in no small part to its biking and public transit infrastructure. Photo by EDO lounge

According to Monocle Magazine’s recently released global livability survey (subscription required), Copenhagen is the world’s most livable city. While surveys of this type are clearly subjective (and often of questionable utility), Monocle’s approach is interesting for the importance it pays to sustainable transport initiatives and good urban planning and design. While old standby metrics like education, health care, and crime figured prominently in their ranking methodology, Monocle’s team also looked at variables such as: connectivity, cost/quality of public transport and taxi, access to nature, amount of green space, and key environmental initiatives.

In a recent Op-Ed released along with the new survey, Monocle’s Editor said that city dwellers the world over want the same basic living experience, with the following attributes:

“a mix of shops and services within walking distance, a good transport interchange within close proximity, green space as part of their residence, a good park with a body of water for a refreshing plunge nearby, independent businesses as a key feature of the community, a sense of security, (…) excellent coffee (…) and finally a little bit of grit and surprise.”

…sounds just about right to me. Below is a list of the other cities in the top 25, straight from the Monocle’s most recent issue.

Monocle’s Top 25 Most Livable Cities:
1. Copenhagen: out in front by virtue of its scale, a good airport, all those bike paths and handsome locals.
2. Munich: almost a winner, but it should have committed to building the Transrapid airport rail link.
3. Tokyo: the world’s best big city by far. Unfortunately, last week’s stabbing spree hasn’t done much for its public safety record.
4. Zurich: more relaxed neighbours would put it in first place.
5. Helsinki: a European capital with a foot firmly in Asia.
6. Vienna: one of Europe’s greenest cities.
7. Stockholm: the city wants to go vertical — a tricky mission.
8. Vancouver: the best of North America in a beautiful frame.
9. Melbourne: the best neighbourhoods in the southern hemisphere.
10. Paris: its visionary mayor has made the old dame internationally relevant again.
11. Sydney
12. Honolulu
13. Madrid
14. Berlin
15. Barcelona
16. Montreal
17. Fukuoka
18. Amsterdam
19. Minneapolis
20. Kyoto
21. Hamburg
22. Singapore
23. Geneva
24. Lisbon
25. Portland.
Finally, these may not tick all the normal boxes but there’s something truly refreshing and more than a little fun about urban living in:
1. Genoa — the next Barcelona?
2. Buenos Aires — it’s all there and then it’s not.
3. Istanbul — all of the ingredients to move into the top 25 next year.
4. Beirut — if chequebook diplomacy Qatar-style put a temporary lid on things, then Beirut deserves more of it for a proper bounce-back.
5. Phnom Penh — regime issues aside, love moves at a perfect pace.

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  • usui

    Munich … they certainly seem to have a knack for cities too expensive for many people to live in, and transportation “solutions” wasting billions in taxpayer money. Over here people are glad that mad Transrapid didnt cost even more than it alresdy did.

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  • http://embarq.wri.org Chris Ward

    Thanks for the comment Dave. You are right – it is notable that few US cities break the top 25. It seems that, at least according to Monocle’s editors, snarled traffic and worries about crime eliminate many American burgs from being serious contenders…

    On last year’s survey, Monocle’s editor noted: “We then looked at both murder rates and domestic burglaries and this kicked most US cities out of the running.” Similarly, in this year’s write-up, New York was cut because its livability continues to “grind to a halt under the weight of automobile traffic, has no coherent scheme to get more people on to bicycles and still no sign of a high-speed, non-stop rail link to any of its airports.”

    For a similar survey (that cuts out the quality of coffee and adds things like political stability and currency exchange rates), check out the following: http://bwnt.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/livable_cities_worldwide/

  • Rob

    Are you sure this list wasn’t ghostwritten by Christian Lander (http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/)? With key features like ‘independent businesses’ and ‘excellent coffee’, the Monocle guys have surely set themselves up for some lampooning…

  • http://urbanmilwaukee.com Dave Reid

    It’s interesting that only 2 US cities even make the Top 25. And just barely!